21st century graffiti

There’s no illustration for this one, folks

Last night, NPR held a debate for the Democratic presidential candidate contenders. At one point, Dennis Kucinich used a pie chart to illustrate his point. A pie chart. On the radio.

As the New York Times reported:

The candidates were seated in a room without an audience to applaud or heckle them. At one point, Representative Dennis A. Kucinich of Ohio used a prop more suited for a television venue as a way demonstrating to Dr. Dean that he could not reduce the deficit without cutting Pentagon spending, drawing an incredulous if helpful bit of narration from the host.

“Congressman Kucinich is holding up a pie chart, which is not truly effective on the radio,” said Neal Conan, the host of “Talk of the Nation” and the moderator of the debate.

“Well, it’s effective if Howard can see it,” Mr. Kucinich said.

It reminds me of 1993, when I was running a radio show about comic books for CIUT, the college station at the University of Toronto. And, you know, in retrospect, maybe it wasn’t the hottest idea doing a radio show about a purely visual medium like comics. But I reached my own personal nadir the night that I interviewed Chester Brown, creator of the utterly brilliant Ed the Happy Clown, I Never Liked You, and Louis Riel comic books. The only problem is that Brown is a pretty taciturn guy, and at least two thirds of the time would answer my questions by either shaking his head “no” or nodding “yes”. On the radio. My attempts to actually get him to vocalize his points were so futile that I eventually was forced to explain to the audience what Brown was doing. “So, you’re nodding yes, Chester. Okay, well then, tell me about …”

Easily one of the most excrutiating interviews of my life.

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I'm Clive Thompson, the author of Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better (Penguin Press). You can order the book now at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Powells, Indiebound, or through your local bookstore! I'm also a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine and a columnist for Wired magazine. Email is here or ping me via the antiquated form of AOL IM (pomeranian99).

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